Ask yourself how many shots you would have saved if you always developed a strategy before you hit, always played within your capabilities, never lost your temper, and never got down on yourself.
I went out for a round of nine with my husband yesterday afternoon, timing it just right so that we could be done in time to view a highly anticipated college football game afterwards. Not only am I a girl who loves golf, but I love to watch football too!
My goal in the last few rounds has been to just be nicer to myself out there, to accept that I’m learning, that even though I’m not a beginner, I still do some pretty bonehead things with my swing under pressure and I need to get out of my own way.
I’ve started reading golf literature in droves. I just finished Dr. Joseph Parent’s Golf: The Art of the Mental Game 100 Classic Golf Tips. This was a book from the library. I also bought Harvey Pennick’s The Red Book, have read most of it, and checked out his For All Who Love the Game, Lessons and Teachings for Women from the library. I also borrowed Bobby Jones on Golf.
The only book I have read cover to cover so far is Dr. Parent’s book. My main takeaway from that book is that Jack Nicklaus never copped to a missed shot. If he missed a putt he said he didn’t miss it, the ball just didn’t go in the hole, or no, that wasn’t a shank – that sort of thing. There was a lot of other information in that book but this Jack Nicklaus approach is what I need to absorb straight away.
So yesterday’s round started poorly for me with two double bogeys. I was starting to get negative and told my husband that nine holes of double bogeys scores me well into the fifties. He laughed and said, “oh so you’re getting double bogeys on every hole, are you?”
We were on the third hole, a short but narrow par four, and I had hit my first shot solidly but well left of the fairway and into some trees. I had to pitch it low back onto the fairway though I was able to go in the direction of the green. The ball didn’t go as far as I had intended however, and I was left with a 60-yarder to the green, my third shot. It too came up short! I was still five feet short of the green lying three.
I pulled my cart slowly up to the shot and pulled out my wedge. I remember just thinking get it close, get it close. Don’t blow this or you’ll have to record another double or even triple bogey on your card. My husband had hit the green in regulation and was unusually quiet at the time, probably thinking about his own birdie putt.
I took the time to visualize how I would strike the ball, how it would fly, where it would land and when it did land, where would it roll to. This is something I’m trying to do for every shot, especially approach shots and putts. I have found some success with this and am adopting it into my pre-shot routine (which, by the way, is still all over the place but I’m experimenting with what works).
I took a few practice chip swings to get the feel for how much weight the shot needed, stepped up to the ball and punched it. It looked good from the beginning and I watched it land just where I planned, roll up the gently sloped green, then break into the hole. Par!
I was so excited. I raised my arms up and ran onto the green to kiss my husband, wedge still in my hand. I jumped up and down. I couldn’t contain myself because I knew this was a turn-around for me and this round was going to be all right after all. Oh yes and, my husband made his birdie putt as well.
I went on to play well. My putting is looking better these days as I’ve been practicing in my living room and working on a solid stroke, aim and lag. It’s starting to show because the putts I’ve missed have been super close and very makeable on the shot after. Most of my first putts that didn’t go in had a real chance at going in, if that makes sense!
When The Real Problems Came
The par-threes were not my friends today. There are three and I doubled them all. But on the par-fours, I went double bogey, par, bogey, bogey. The only real trouble came on the dreaded seventh hole. That is the only par five in the round, has OB stakes on both sides of the fairway AND a lake to hit over. Long hitting men can hit a great drive then send their second shot over the lake and onto the green for good eagle opportunities or, get it close for a short approach shot to set up a birdie putt, but most women have fits with this hole and I’m no different.
I teed off with my five-iron again because I flub so many wood shots off this tee in my attempt to hit far. I swung super easy and just tapped the ball. Anything is better than a skull here! The ball made it past the cart path that the ladies and I joke about, a path which crosses the fairway about 50 yards past our tee box. My second shot pulled left a little and was hit thin though better than a full on skull. I was still well back of the lake. You can stay left of the lake and not have to hit over it but your aim better be good. That is my usual tactic and it works but on this day, it did not. My third shot took the plunge.
There went my good round.
After some arguing with my husband about how to score my penalty and how to make a proper drop, I ended up dropping the new ball back of the lake about twenty feet in line with where the ball went into the lake and the hole, as the rules state. I stabbed at the shot hard, tried to kill it, hit it poorly and though it carried over the water, it did so just barely. I still had 50 yards to the green and without the penalty added in I now lay four. I pitched short of the green, had to get on with a chip then two-putted for a snowman on the hole. Add the penalty stroke in for a dreaded nine. In my disgust of course I thought I made ten and I kind of lost track of my shots but thankfully my husband was counting. He actually swore I made eight with penalty but, nope, I don’t think so. After hitting it over the water I was up and down in four. Four before the water. Four after the water. 4 + 4 = 8. 8 + 1 = 9.
I also made a discovery on this hole. Or I should say my husband did. He saw me do something that I have suspected I’ve been doing for the past several weeks. When I hit the bad shot over the lake I lifted up my left foot mid swing! My weight stayed on my right foot and I never shifted it back forward. I was all out of balance. From the get go I was trying to hit a home run. Again. Duh. Caught red-handed.
My mental state was not perfect throughout this round but what I am happy with is that when things got bad I was able to dial it back and focus on the next shot. Would I have liked to have settled myself down quicker? Yes. But I welcome the progress.
After the disaster on seven, I bogeyed eight and nine, with lots of good ball striking and two-putts.
Score for nine holes: 48
Solid Contact: 16
Putts: 17. (zero-putts – 1, one-putts – 0, three-putts – 2 )
Shots left: 14
The takeaway: 53% of my shots were well struck! Better than last time. Of my poorly hit shots, a good many of them were marginally decent and though I didn’t count them as solid contact, they were not that bad and had good results. Example, thinly hit pitches that still had good flight and landed close to the pin, or slightly skulled shots that carried a bit in the air then rolled a good distance.
Thought of the day: Instead of trying to ‘read’ the green, so to speak, I now mentally aim right at the hole and ask myself what the ball will do. If it will, say, break off right by eighteen inches, then what do I need to do to compensate for that? I then make my plan. This has really given me a breakthrough in my putts and helped me to not to try to steer the putt.